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Drug use shouldn't block college by Andrew Bossie (opinion) June 2, 2005 - mainetoday.com
Over the past seven years, more than 160,000 would-be college students have had the doors to education slammed shut in their faces.
Our federal lawmakers, including Maine's Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, hold in their hands the key to unlocking those doors for thousands of Mainers. Students around the state need them to act swiftly.
The problem stems from a little-known 1998 amendment to the federal Higher Education Act that suspends financial aid eligibility to students with any drug convictions, including misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
While the provision was apparently intended to discourage drug abuse, it's hard to imagine how pulling students out of school is supposed to keep them away from drugs and out of the criminal justice system.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that receiving at least two years of higher education reduces the likelihood of repeat offenses from a national rate of 60 percent to only 10 percent.
It is simply counterproductive to throw at-risk young people out of school, where they will be much more likely to break the law again and continue to drain our law enforcement resources.
But perhaps even worse than the increase in crime provoked by this law is the decrease in societal productivity it causes. We know from 2000 Census data that, on average, college graduates earn $19,100 more per year than those with only a high school diploma.
Multiply that difference by the 160,586 students declared ineligible for aid under this policy, and we see the devastating $3.1 billion earnings loss our economy incurs every year as a consequence of this law.
There are numerous other problems with the law. For example, students affected by the provision have already been punished through the criminal justice system. Universities also generally discipline or expel students who break campus drug policies.
Do we now want to ensure that they can't reform themselves by stripping them of access to education altogether? Are we moving toward a one-strike-and-three-outs policy? What has happened to our ability to forgive and grant a second chance?
Furthermore, since there are already minimum GPA requirements for receiving financial aid, the drug provision only affects students who are doing well in school.
And, because of racial profiling and the discriminatory enforcement of drug laws, minorities are being kept out of school at a higher rate than the general population. The law further perpetuates societal problems such as discrimination and poverty, particularly among minorities.
In January, the congressionally appointed Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance recommended that Congress remove the drug question from the financial aid application, calling it "irrelevant" to aid eligibility.
To that end, the Removing Impediments to Students' Education Act was introduced in the U.S. House in March and now has 67 co-sponsors. If passed, the RISE Act will repeal the drug provision and reinstate financial aid to students trying to turn their lives around.
But no companion bill has yet been introduced in the U.S. Senate. By introducing a version of the RISE Act in the Senate, Sens. Collins and Snowe could help students rise above their past legal troubles and put their lives back on track.
Nice find veggie. Some very good points made! I also beleive that 'drug offenders' shouldn't be stripped of the possibility of a good college education. Anyone here of this happening in any other countries?
-------------------- "Everything is not as it seems." Eye
Quote: it's hard to imagine how pulling students out of school is supposed to keep them away from drugs and out of the criminal justice system.
The point isn't to keep people off drugs. For example, your average crack head isn't going to be effected by this law. The law is designed to keep open-minded, lower and middle class, self-thinkers out of higher education, which effectively eliminates them from any decision making positions thus preserving the status quo. These are the types of people that could lead a productive life as a doctor or lawmaker while still responsibly using drugs such as alcohol and cannabis. It is much easier to show the negative effects of illegal drugs when we take away opportunities from drug users.
-------------------- Just another spore in the wind.